Bupleurum roots

Chinese: 柴胡

Pinyin: Chái Hú

Parts used: Dried root and rhizome

TCM category: Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

TCM nature: Cool

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: GallbladderLiver

Scientific name: Bupleurum chinense

Other names: Thorowax

Use of bupleurum roots (Chai Hu) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, wash, soak in water, cut in thick slices and dry.

Dosage: 3-10 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Harmonizes exterior and interior. Smoothes the Liver and upraises the Yang.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which bupleurum roots may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Common cold Fever Malaria Chest pain Irregular menstruation Uterine prolapse Rectal prolapse

Contraindications*: Not suitable for those whose Liver Qi is already uprising.

Common TCM formulas in which bupleurum roots are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind bupleurum roots (Chai Hu)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), bupleurum roots are plants that belong to the 'Cool/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior' category. Herbs that release the Exterior aim to to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the throat or the skin. TCM believes that External diseases such as colds or allergies can only invade the body if the External environment overwhelms our Wei Qi (the TCM version of the immune system). In order to counteract this invasion Cool/Acrid herbs aim to induce sweating by dilating our capillary pores so that they release more sweat. The belief is that this will expel the disease from the body and stop it from invading further.

As suggested by its category bupleurum roots are plants that are Cool in nature. This means that bupleurum roots tend to help people who have too much "heat" in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Cold in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much heat in their body are said to either have a Yang excess (because Yang is Hot in nature) or a Yin deficiency (Yin is Cold in Nature). Depending on your condition bupleurum roots can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Bupleurum roots also taste Bitter. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like bupleurum roots tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing heat, drying dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such bupleurum roots are thought to target the Gallbladder and the Liver. Similar to modern medicine, in TCM the Gall Bladder stores and releases bile produced by the Liver. It also controls the emotion of decisiveness. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on bupleurum roots(Chai Hu)

Bupleurum root extracts exhibit evident anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antiviral, anti-allergic, immunoregulation, and neuroregulation activities.1

Integrative medicine that include thorowax root could adjust immune function to display a quick, potent anti-inflammatory and anti-anaphylactic actions in treating chronic urticaria with less adverse reaction and low recurrence rates.2


1. Yuan B, Yang R, Ma Y, Zhou S, Zhang X, Liu Y. (2017). A systematic review of the active saikosaponins and extracts isolated from Radix Bupleuri and their applications. Pharm Biol. , 55(1):620-635.

2. Jin CY, Wang DL, Fang ZD. (2008 ). Effect of integrative Chinese and Western medicine in treating chronic urticaria and its impact on interleukin-10 and interleukin-8 in peripheral blood. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi. , 28(4):358-60.